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Anxiety issues in kids.

This note is concerning my 6 yr old son.  He has recently developed an anxiety over any sort of pain/cut/sore/ache-he is very concerned, often to the point of tears, about small scrapes, bumps, boo-boo’s, etc.  For awhile I was looking at each “concern” and explaining that it was fine and would heal naturally.  Then I hit my limit and started to get annoyed and I told him to stop worrying so much (probably not very nicely, I might add).  Lately, after looking up anxiety on the internet I’ve been using the approach of looking at each boo-boo, explaining in a calm voice what it is and re-assuring him.  The phrase I read that stuck with me is that if I got annoyed with him for his concerns he’d just learn to hide them from me, but his worry would still be there…  Ouch….

 SO!  He is coming to me at least 10 times a day (usually more) with different body worries.  You’ve checked out his leg bumps before (one of his big worries) and determined that they were Molluscum.  He recently had an inflamed one that burst when he bumped it and he freaked out…  He has been showing me what looks like a wart on his finger for the last few days and he says it “stings” when he touches it.  I can’t tell if it’s Molluscum or just a regular wart so I’m not sure how to treat that one!  His tooth aches and he’ll keep poking at it.  He has a pain in his toe and he’ll grab it worry about it.  I could go on and on but I’ll try to get to the point!

 I’d like to bring him in and see if you could just check him out all over.  He asked me last week if he could have his leg bumps removed!  He is so scared of pain or shots or anything that might hurt but I think he’s torn between his worry over his bumps and the pain of having them removed!  I honestly don’t know if he can handle having them removed, I’m not sure how painful the process is, but I want to help this little guy with all my heart….  I’ve told him many times that when he’s ready we can take him in to see you and you’ll talk to us about it.  He trusts you very much and I know you’ll guide us in the right direction.  I did, however, think it was important to fill you in on his current anxiety before you see him.  I think that you’re re-assurance about all his little aches and pains may help him…  I will take any advice you’re willing to give regarding Spencer’s current fear.  I will add (though it’s probably unrelated) that he’s had other fears lately on top of this major one - floods, scared at night, bad guys coming through his window, etc.  I am worried about my worrier!!!!!!!  Do you think this is a phase he just needs to get through with my guidance?  I don’t know if counseling is necessary or if it would only compound the issue! 

 I really respect and appreciate how you always “keep it real”, I am need of some “keeping it real” over here!!!!!

  

 

Dear Concerned Mom

It does sound like he is going through a “stage” of increased anxiety.  This is of course common but some have more than others.  As they get older they understand that things can happen to you such as injuries, robberies, and even death.  They can have excessive fears about the dark, parents leaving and not coming back, dogs, cars, falling and afraid of heights, etc.  Adults can have these same anxieties but we can reassure ourselves that it is OK and the chances of something happening is remote enough.  Most men are not afraid to get out of the car in a dark parking lot but most women are.  Some women are afraid to go to the mall in the daylight.  Then that fear/anxiety is interfering with their function and ability to have a normal life.  Most kids will start to realize this is a concern but get over it.  Move on.  Some may not achieve that “stage” where they understand it is not as catastrophic as they thought and move on with life.  But most will. 

 Thank goodness that we are all different and have different personalities.  Think of the adults you know.  They are all different.  Some are careless, some silly, some optimist or pessimist, and some worry about everything.  We have a friend that constantly tells us about every ache and pain.  She gets secondary reward in the form of attention and empathy.  We have always just changed the subject when we meet her and she starts complaining. 

 I do not think counseling would be beneficial at this stage or age and you are right that it has the potential of making it worse.  It is the same with treating the Molluskum.  If you fix that, then what about fixing everything else he thinks is wrong.  And if you think it is bad enough to treat, then wow … there must be something wrong.  A similar comparison is the teenager who comes in and wants the mole on her cheek removed.  If you do that, then what about my breasts, hips, etc.   Now you start going down the road to have that perfect body and never happy with yourself.  The problem is dealing with life and our body and our fears.  If you fix one thing, they will move on to trying to remove another.  Accept what God gave you like a bald head.   I can treat the Molluskum but it will not fix the real problem.  The treatment is putting some medicine on it that will blister in 1-2 days.  The medicine does not hurt but the blister feels like a blister and heals the same way.

 I agree with a calm reassurance and then move on or change the subject.  Reassurance without a lot of secondary attention.   I guess we could have a child with no thought of consequences and leap into anything.  Studies show that kind of child has more delinquency, drugs, pregnancy, etc because they do not think of the possibility of injury.  There are less of these problems with a cautious personality like Spencer.  You might try teaching by example.  You complain of some soreness or whatever and then make a statement about how we all have these and it will go away.  “I’m not worried about it.  God will fix it and it will feel better soon.” 

 I could see him and give some reassurance about his aches and pains.  I would be glad to see him this coming week.  It could help but again it may backfire because you are taking him to the doctor so something must be wrong...??    And it will not help his anxiety about floods, night, or bad guys. I would not let him see news on TV, movies or video games with violence, or even hear conversations between you and husband unless it points out the fact that worrying did not help.  I think watching all this stuff on the internet and news on TV increases our anxiety also.  And it is the job of the news to scare us into watching their show.

 Teens actually can start complaining more about aches and pains.  I tell parents to watch for progression.  They have stomach aches (a lot during grade school also) but if they start having diarrhea, blood in the stools, weight loss…. Then they have a problem that needs to be checked out. So watch for the aches or pains to be increasing and with more symptoms.

 For older kids or those with more severe and increasing anxiety, cognitive-behavioral therapy is currently the treatment of choice for anxiety and depressive disorders in children and adolescents.

 Hang in there…. This will be going on for years.  I’m sure our parents worried a lot about us when we were growing up.

 DR. Knapp

 See:

http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/reports/depression_anxiety/1156-1.html

 http://www.ehow.com/how_2152812_manage-anxiety-drugs.html

 http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Six_Steps_to_Developing_Anxiety_Coping_Skills.html

 http://www.angelfire.com/id2/cafe/MPanic14.html

 http://helpguide.org/mental/separation_anxiety_causes_prevention_treatment.htm

http://helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_self_help.htm

 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/12/06/earlyshow/leisure/books/main1099210.shtml

 And lastly:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/anxiety.html quote from this article below.   Advice from Kidshealth:

Helping Your Child.  Parents can help kids develop the skills and confidence to overcome fears so that they don't evolve into phobic reactions.  To help your child deal with fears and anxieties:

 1.                  Recognize that the fear is real. As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to your child and it's causing him or her to feel anxious and afraid. Being able to talk about fears helps — words often take some of the power out of the negative feeling. If you talk about it, it can become less powerful.

2.                  Never belittle the fear as a way of forcing your child to overcome it. Saying, "Don't be ridiculous! There are no monsters in your closet!" may get your child to go to bed, but it won't make the fear go away.

3.                  Don't cater to fears, though. If your child doesn't like dogs, don't cross the street deliberately to avoid one. This will just reinforce that dogs should be feared and avoided. Provide support and gentle care as you approach the feared object or situation with your child.

4.                  Teach kids how to rate fear. A child who can visualize the intensity of the fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest, may be able to "see" the fear as less intense than first imagined. Younger kids can think about how "full of fear" they are, with being full "up to my knees" as not so scared, "up to my stomach" as more frightened, and "up to my head" as truly petrified.

5.                  Teach coping strategies. Try these easy-to-implement techniques. Using you as "home base," the child can venture out toward the feared object, and then return to you for safety before venturing out again. The child can also learn some positive self-statements, such as "I can do this" and "I will be OK" to say to himself or herself when feeling anxious. Relaxation techniques are helpful, including visualization (of floating on a cloud or lying on a beach, for example) and deep breathing (imagining that the lungs are balloons and letting them slowly deflate).

 The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them. Using these suggestions, you can help your child better cope with life's situations.  Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

 

 

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And then there are parents who worry too much about their children.:

http://pediatrics.about.com/od/parentingadvice/a/410_parenting_anxiety.htm